Hospitals deal with staffing problems, report few weather-related injuries

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The winter storm has caused staffing problems for all area hospitals, though there were few weather-related injuries to deal with.

Linda G. Brown, advanced practical nurse and emergency room director for Southeast Missouri Hospital, said she and others are using their own four-wheel-drive vehicles to shuttle co-workers to and from the hospital.

She said the emergency room has seen a slight uptick in patients being referred from Scott County, where the Missouri Delta Medical Center is operating on generators.

She said no instances of unexpected births have been reported, but a spate of people are arriving for care having been hurt by "slips trips falls, cuts, bumps and bruises" related to the weather. Some who got hurt overexerted themselves.

"Some are older folks who have underlying conditions and the weather is putting some extra stress on their bodies. I see people out shoveling their driveways and they may be in great health, but I sure wish they wouldn't be doing that," she said.

The combination of cold, exercise stress and cardiac problems caused 16 people to visit the emergency room for breathing trouble or chest pains since midnight -- five times the number seen on a typical day. Three of those people were admitted to the hospital, she said.

No instances of hypothermia or frostbite have been reported, she said.

"The main thing during this weather is that anybody who knows anybody is checking on them," Brown said. "Don't leave it to others."

Saint Francis Medical Center also saw an influx of weather-related emergency room visits, mostly from slip-and-fall incidents, according to spokeswoman Emily Sikes. The hospital also accepted patient transfers from Sikeston and Dexter hospitals, she said.

"We are extremely impressed with the number of employees who have braved the weather or made provisions to stay overnight, as well as those with four-wheel-drive vehicles who volunteered to bring in others to ensure that we are fully staffed," she said.

"We're basically doing disaster work," said Charles Ancell, president of the Missouri Delta Medical Center. Generators are being used for limited power.

"The only critical thing will be to keep fuel. We can run about a week on generators, but I get nervous when we reach the halfway point," he said. "We did get a food shipment in today, so I'm grateful for that. Nobody's getting much sleep, but our doctors have been wonderful."

Clyde Wood, chief operating officer for Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center, said his hospital had not lost power, nor had it received patient referrals from other sites. But staffing remained an issue "more than anything," he said. "We have made arrangements to shuttle staff or have rooms available at local hotels."

He said some people arriving at his hospital were simply seeking shelter and water.

"If they aren't on city water and they don't have power, they don't have heating or water," he said.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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